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Instrument Cluster Simulator for SocketCAN

By: OpenGarages


You will need:

  • SDL2
  • SDL2_Image
  • can-utils

You can get can-utils from github or on Ubuntu you may run the following

  sudo apt-get install libsdl2-dev libsdl2-image-dev can-utils  

With dependencies installed, you may use the Meson build system to build the project:

  meson setup builddir && cd builddir
  meson compile

Testing on a virtual CAN interface

You can run the following commands to setup a virtual can interface

  sudo modprobe can
  sudo modprobe vcan
  sudo ip link add dev vcan0 type vcan
  sudo ip link set up vcan0

If you type ifconfig vcan0 you should see a vcan0 interface. A file has also been provided with this repo.


Default operations:

Start the Instrument Cluster (IC) simulator:

  ./icsim vcan0

Then startup the controls

  ./controls vcan0

The hard coded defaults should be in sync and the controls should control the IC. Ideally use a controller similar to an XBox controller to interact with the controls interface. The controls app will generate corrosponding CAN packets based on the buttons you press. The IC Sim sniffs the CAN and looks for relevant CAN packets that would change the display.


  • If you get an error about canplayer then you may not have can-utils properly installed and in your path.
  • If the controller does not seem to be responding make sure the controls window is selected and active

lib.o not linking

If lib.o doesn't link it's probably because it's the wrong arch for your platform. To fix this you will want to compile can-utils and copy the newly compiled lib.o to the icsim directory. You can get can-utils from:

read: Bad address

When running ./icsim vcan0 you end up getting a read: Bad Address message, this is typically a result of needing to recompile with updated SDL libraries. Make sure you have the recommended latest SDL2 libraries. Some users have reported fixing this problem by creating symlinks to the SDL.h files manually or you could edit the Makefile and change the CFLAGS to point to wherever your distro installs the SDL.h header, ie: /usr/include/x86_64-linux-gnu/SDL2

There was also a report that on Arch linux needed sdl2_gfx library.

CAN Hacking Training Usage

To safely train on CAN hacking you can play back a sample recording included in this repo of generic CAN traffic. This will create something similar to normal CAN "noise". Then start the IC Sim with the -r (randomize) switch.

  ./icsim -r vcan0
  Using CAN interface vcan0
  Seed: 1401717026

Now copy the seed number and paste it as the -s (seed) option for the controls.

  ./controls -s 1401717026 vcan0

This will randomize what CAN packets the IC needs and by passing the seed to the controls they will sync. Randomizing changes the arbitration IDs as well as the byte position of the packets used. This will give you experience in hunting down different types of CAN packets on the CAN Bus.

For the most realistic training you can change the difficulty levels. Set the difficulty to 2 with the controls:

  ./controls -s 1401717026 -l 2 vcan0

This will add additional randomization to the target packets, simulating other data stored in the same arbitration id.